See something wrong with this picture?
How about this one?
Or this one?
In each picture, the problem’s the same. These are containers that should be filled with content, but instead are holding other containers. And by its very nature, a container minus content is meaningless. Empty.
So is creative design and advertising when it’s lacking content. It becomes a pretty frame around nothing.
We bring this up because there’s a tendency to focus on containers in our line of work—whether it's the layout of a website, the location of an ad, or the choice of social media channels into which we’ll pour a message.
All of those things matter, of course. Containers are necessary to show, store, and convey the content. They even influence it. A message naturally takes on the shape of its medium and is limited by its capacity.
But if you had to choose between the two—the container or content—it’d be a no-brainer. You can always buy another frame, suitcase, or safe. You can’t always replace what’s inside.
That’s why we stress the centrality of content in our work with clients. The stuff on the inside—your company identity, unique value proposition, and human capital—that’s what can’t be easily replaced or imitated. A competitor can go buy the same baking dish, but not your secret family recipe.
We encountered something like this recently. A client found that a peer company had a website much like their own. Alarmed by the similarities, they asked for a site overhaul, and we’re working on it even now. No problem.
However, even if the sites had looked exactly alike in terms of layout, they still would have been distinct because they’re communicating very different messages. There was no real danger that anyone would confuse the two.
Again, that’s why content is so central. If your core messaging is distinct and persuasive, then it’ll stand out even if it’s framed just like a competitor's. People will get the picture.